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Men's and women's adult diapers in the form of underpants.

An adult diaper is a diaper made to be worn by an adult. Diapers become necessary for adults who suffer from various conditions, such as incontinence, mobility impairment, or dementia. Adult diapers are made in various forms, including those resembling traditional child diapers, underpants, and pads resembling sanitary napkins (known as incontinence pads).

In the medical community, professionals are trained to use alternative terms such as "briefs" rather than "diapers" for the sake of dignity, as the term "diapers" is associated with children and therefore may have a negative connotation. In practice, though, most health care workers are accustomed to calling them diapers, especially those that resemble children's diapers.



Health care

"Although donning a diaper to decrease the number of bathroom stops is not something you or I would think to do, otherwise healthy adults do wear diapers more often than we realize for good reasons."

—Merlene Davis of the Lexington Herald-Leader referring to the Lisa Nowak incident and adult diaper usage in general.[1][2]

People with medical conditions which cause them to suffer from urinary or fecal incontinence often require diapers or similar products because they are unable to control their bladders or bowels. People who are bedridden or in a wheelchair, including those with good bowel and bladder control, may also wear diapers because they are unable to access the toilet independently. Those with cognitive impairment, such as dementia, may require diapers because they may not recognize their need to reach a toilet.


A bag of Abena X-Plus diapers

Fetishists can wear diapers for sexual gratification. People with diaper fetishism have a desire to wear diapers even though it is not a physiological necessity, and may enjoy using their diaper to various degrees, depending on the person. Infantilists wear and use diapers in ageplay, although they are considered distinct from fetishists, as "diaper lovers" are sexually motivated to wear diapers, whereas "adult babies" wish to regress to the helpless state of a baby. Other sexual uses of diapers include omorashi, rubber or plastic fetishism[3] In BDSM roleplaying games, diapers can be used as a power exchange to emphasize loss of adulthood or control over bodily functions. Alternatively, they can also be liberating, as an infantilist is granted the desired freedom to be a baby.[4]


Astronauts wear trunklike diapers called "Maximum Absorbency Garments", or MAGs, during liftoff and landing.[5] On space shuttle missions, each crew member receives three diapers — for launch, reentry and a spare in case reentry has to be waved off and tried later.[6] The super-absorbent fabric used in disposable diapers, which can hold up to 400 times its weight, was developed so Apollo astronauts could stay on spacewalks and extra-vehicular activity for at least six hours.[1][2] Originally, only female astronauts would wear Maximum Absorbency Garments, as the collection devices used by men were unsuitable for women; however, reports of their comfort and effectiveness eventually convinced men to start wearing the diapers as well.[7] Public awareness of astronaut diapers rose significantly following the arrest of Lisa Nowak, a NASA astronaut charged with attempted murder, who gained notoriety in the media when the police reported she had driven 900 miles, with an adult diaper so she would not have to stop to urinate.[8] The diapers became fodder for many television comedians, as well as being included in an adaptation of the story in Law & Order: Criminal Intent, despite Nowak's denial that she wore them.[9]


Other situations in which diapers are worn because access to a toilet is unavailable or not allowed for longer than even a normal bladder can hold out include;

  • Guards who must stay on duty and are not permitted to leave their posts; this is sometimes called the "watchman's urinal".[1][2]
  • It has long been suggested that legislators don a diaper before an extended filibuster, so often that it has been jokingly called "taking to the diaper." There has certainly been at least one such instance, in which Strom Thurmond gave a record-holding 24 hours and 18 minute speech.[1][2][10]
  • Some death row inmates who are about to be executed wear "execution diapers" to collect body fluids expelled during and after their death.[1][2][11]
  • People diving in diving suits (in former times often standard diving dresses) may wear diapers because they are underwater continuously for several hours.[1][2]
  • Similarly, pilots may wear them on long flights.[1][2][12]
  • Some competitive weightlifters choose to wear diapers early in their training because the pressure makes them urinate involuntarily.[1][2]
  • In 2003, Hazards magazine reported that workers in various industries were taking to wearing diapers because their bosses denied them toilet breaks during working hours. One woman said that she was having to spend 10% of her pay on incontinence pads for this reason. [13][14]
  • Chinese media reported in 2006 that diapers are a popular way to avoid long queues for the toilets on railway trains during the Lunar New Year traveling season.[15]

"Diapers are something that people don't want to look at, but if you make them attractive, then people can learn about them more easily."

—Kiyoko Hamada of the Aging Lifestyle Research Center, a leading organizer of the 2008 Tokyo diaper fashion show.[1]

The adult diaper market in Japan is growing.[16] On September 25, 2008, Japanese manufacturers of adult diapers conducted the world's first all-diaper fashion show, dramatizing throughout it many informative dramatic scenarios which addressed various issues relevant to older people in diapers. "It was great to see so many different types of diapers all in one showing," said Aya Habuka, 26. "I learned a lot. This is the first time that diapers are being considered as fashion."[17]

There are those who believe diapers are a preferable alternative to using the toilet. According to Dr Dipak Chatterjee of Mumbai newspaper Daily News and Analysis, public toilet facilities are so unhygienic that it is actually safer for people—especially women—who are vulnerable to infections to wear adult diapers instead.[18] Seann Odoms of Men's Health magazine believes that wearing diapers can help people of all ages to maintain healthy bowel function. He himself claims to wear diapers full-time for this purported health benefit. "Diapers," he states, "are nothing other than a more practical and healthy form of underwear. They are the safe and healthy way of living."[19] Author Paul Davidson argues that it should be socially acceptable for everyone to wear diapers permanently, claiming that they provide freedom and remove the unnecessary hassle of going to the toilet, just as social advancement has offered solutions to other complications. He writes, "Make the elderly finally feel embraced instead of ridiculed and remove the teasing from the adolescent equation that affects so many children in a negative way. Give every person in this world the opportunity to live, learn, grow and urinate anywhere and anytime without societal pressure to "hold themselves in.""[20]

Dignity issues

The usage of adult diapers can be a source of embarrassment,[21] and products are often marketed under euphemisms such as incontinence pads.

In 2006, seventeen students taking a geriatrics pharmacotherapy course participated in a voluntary "diaper experience" exercise to help them understand the impact incontinence has on older adults. The students, who wore adult diapers for a day before writing a paper about it, described the experience as unfamiliar and physically challenging, noting that being in diapers had a largely negative impact on them and that better solutions to incontinence are required. However, they praised the exercise for giving them insight into incontinence and the effect it has on peoples' lives.[22]

In 2008, Ontario's Minister of Health George Smitherman revealed that he was considering wearing adult diapers himself to test their absorbency following complaints that nursing home residents were forced to remain in unchanged diapers for days at a time. Smitherman's proposal earned him criticism from unions who argued that the priority was not the capacity of the diapers but rather staff shortages affecting how often they were changed, and he later apologized.[23][24][25][26]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Davis, Merlene (February 11, 2007). "I Did My Research on Adult Diapers". Lexington Herald-Leader. p. C1. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Merlene Davis (2007-02-11). "The Lexington Herald-Leader, Ky., Merlene Davis Column: I Did My Research on Adult Diapers". RedOrbit. Retrieved 2007-12-16. 
  3. ^ What is Infantilism?
  4. ^ AB/DL for BDSM Enthusiasts
  5. ^ Behind the Scenes: Training
  6. ^ Rivenburg, Roy. (2007). "NASA diapers become topic No. 1". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved June 15, 2007.
  7. ^ Information on astronaut diapers
  8. ^ Lisa Nowak charged with attempted murder
  9. ^ Lisa Nowak denies wearing diapers
  10. ^ "Wayne Morse Sets Filibuster Record". 
  11. ^ Information on execution diapers
  12. ^ While they bombed, diapers kept Sukhoi pilots dry
  13. ^ "Hazards 81 extended briefing: Toilet breaks". Hazards. Retrieved 2007-12-18. 
  14. ^ "Hazards: Loo Break A Right Not A Privilege". UnionSafe. 2003-02-25. Retrieved 2007-12-18. 
  15. ^ Xinhua News Agency. (2006). "Sales of adult diapers soar over holiday journeys". Retrieved February 24, 2009.
  16. ^ P&G seeks buyer for Japan adult diaper brand | Reuters
  17. ^ Diaper Fashion Show Hits the Catwalk
  18. ^ Chatterjee, Dr. Dipak (2007-02-11). "Docs advise diapers over public loos". DNA. Retrieved 2007-12-18. 
  19. ^ Nappies seriously manage your health - Seann Odoms
  20. ^ Adult Diapers for the rest of us
  21. ^ Stack, Jennie Borodko (2001-02). "When You've Gotta Go, You've Gotta Go". Muscular Dystrophy Association. Retrieved 2008-01-03. 
  22. ^ Boyce, Eric. and Dolder, Christian (2006-10-05). "Active Learning in a Geriatrics Pharmacotherapy Course: Outcomes Associated with a Diaper Experience Exercise". American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy, Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina, San Diego, California. Retrieved 2007-12-18. 
  23. ^ Jordana Huber (2008-02-28). "Smitherman considers wearing diaper". National Post. Retrieved 2008-05-20. 
  24. ^ The Canadian Press (2008-02-27). "Ont. health minister prepared to don adult diaper". CTV Television Network. Retrieved 2008-05-20. 
  25. ^ John Turley-Ewart (2008-02-27). "John Turley-Ewart: On George Smitherman and his dirty diaper". National Post. Retrieved 2008-05-20. 
  26. ^ Rob Ferguson (2008-02-28). "I'm sorry, Smitherman says". The Retrieved 2008-05-20. 

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